‘Sharks’ make a splash at conference leadership weekend

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One of the groups pitching their project to the 'Sharks'.

In a weekend dedicated to learning more about serving others at the North New South Wales (NNSW) Conference’s Leadership in the Local Church event (February 17-19), Shark Tank was an opportunity to dedicate some cold, hard cash to funding community service ventures.

With a share of $A45,000 up for grabs on the Saturday night, the new addition to the leadership weekend riffed on the reality TV show of the same name and saw five groups of young people from around the Conference pitch their service projects to the panel of “Sharks” in front of an audience of hundreds of leadership weekend attendees in Avondale College’s Chan Shun Auditorium.

"I loved seeing the ideas. There are so many more out there. Now people have seen we’re not that bad and we do give away money—some of us, at least!"

The “Sharks”—NNSW Conference CFO Russell Halliday; NNSW Conference general secretary Pastor Paul Geelan; ADRA Australia director Mark Webster; Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing general manager of marketing Daniel Derrick; Australian Union Conference personal ministries, Sabbath School and leadership director Pastor Cristian Copaceanu; and Priscilla Mariassouce, youth pastor at ZAIDA Youth—challenged and encouraged the teams in turn, digging deep into why their projects were worth funding. The Sharks also had some fun playing their roles on the panel, with Mr Halliday particularly relishing ripping up cheques.

What were the community projects?

Project 101 from Wallsend church focused on providing maintenance services for people in their community via a website. Little Black Caravan from the Kingscliff church group aimed to provide a mobile ministry van to help young adults get motivated for mission. Avondale College’s Sunday Funday group chased funding for a bouncy castle and other resources to help with their park-based community event days. Gateway’s ZAIDA Youth received money to purchase an Archery Attack kit and more to provide food for young people attending the group. Finally, Share Heroes created a concept of building community connections by members of the public being able to hire equipment out through a Share Heroes website, with some of the cost of hire going to a charity.

All five teams had fantastic concepts for community service projects, some of which are already being worked on, but unfortunately not all of them walked away with all of the funding they had hoped to receive. However, no-one went home empty-handed, as each group received funding, ranging from a modest amount to more than they had asked for.

“I think Shark Tank is an amazing event that could become an annual thing,” Mr Derrick said. Mr Webster agreed, adding, “I loved seeing the ideas. There are so many more out there. Now people have seen we’re not that bad and we do give away money — some of us, at least — I’m looking forward to next year already!”